Many of us have at one point been advised to use a sulphate-free shampoo in order to maintain the health of our hair. But what are sulphates? Simply put, they are cleaning compounds used in shampoos in order to clear surface level dirt and oil. They are also found in household cleaning products like detergents and are responsible for creating lather when the products are used. The three main types of sulphates used in hair cleansers are sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and ammonium laureth sulfate. They belong to a class of cleansers called anionic surfactants and work by attracting oil and dirt, that can then be washed out with water. The kind of sulphates used in shampoos vary in intensity, however, all of them are known to be in some way irritating to your scalp.
- Fast facts of sulphate
- How do sulphates affect your scalp?
- Are sulphates bad for all hair types?
- What are the benefits of sulphate-free shampoos?
- How to switch to a sulphate-free hair care routine?
- Are there any disadvantages of going sulphate-free?
- FAQs about sulphate-free shampoo
Fast facts of sulphate
As seen above, there is a lot to be unfolded here. If you are planning to go sulphate-free, here are a few questions that need to be answered first...
How do sulphates affect your scalp?
Sulphates are used in shampoos in order to make them easier to use. You can sudsy up these formulas to make them foam better and help ease the shampooing process. Sulphate shampoos are easier to spread out, but they do have a negative effect on your scalp. These compounds remove dirt and oil from your scalp in order to let the other active ingredients in your shampoo work their way deeper into the hair. However, you cannot control how much oil these compounds do strip away, meaning the natural oils your scalp needs to stay healthy are also removed. Your scalp is rid of its natural moisture, which makes it prone to excessive dryness and irritation.
Are sulphates bad for all hair types?
Much like the skin, your hair has a type as well. Similar to skin, even hair types can respond differently to certain ingredients. And while excessively oily, flaky and greasy scalps can benefit from sulphates when used correctly, some hair types suffer more. The hair types that do not respond well to sulphates are -
1. Sensitive scalp -
If you suffer from scalp sensitivity, abuse of sulphates can lead to issues like itching, redness, and cracking. This is especially true for sensitive skin issues like eczema or psoriasis which need all the hydration they can get to stop flaring up.
2. Dry, frizzy hair -
Natural hair textures that are curly, dry or frizzy should avoid sulphates at all costs. This hair type is often highly porous and sulphates can strip it of essential nourishment. They can also add unnecessary friction to this hair type, leading to breakage and a scraggly appearance.
3. Dyed, chemically treated hair -
Sulphates are especially harsh on coloured and chemically treated hair. The compounds can make your colour fade faster and make it look brassy and dull. Straightened or heat-treated hair also suffers from a lot of damage, so overly drying it with sulphates can stress it out further.
What are the benefits of sulphate-free shampoos?
Even though not all hair types are equally affected by sulphates, they can all benefit from going totally sulphate-free. Here are some of the major benefits of using sulphate-free shampoos -
1. Maintaining your scalp's natural oils:
Your scalp produces natural oils that help nourish your hair follicles and keep them healthy. These natural oils can be stripped by sulphates, and make your scalp work overtime to compensate for it. This is why you might find your scalp getting greasy after long-term sulphate shampoo use.
2. Keeping hydration as the main goal:
Hair that is devoid of moisture for too long becomes dry, brittle, weak and hampered by split ends. SLS shampoos strip away essential moisture from your hair fibres, leading to dullness and frizziness. Going sulphate-free will make sure your hair washing routine is hydrating, and not drying, in nature.
3. Keeping your scalp soothed and calm:
Even though they are used in skin and hair care essentials, sulphates are harsh chemicals at the end of the day. Prolonged use can overly sensitise your scalp, leading to irritation and inflammation. An inflamed scalp is not a happy scalp and can lead to issues like hair fall, premature greying and increased vulnerability to infections.
4. Hair colour retention:
There is nothing sadder than watching the lovely dye leak out of your hair and end up on your bathroom floor! Sulphates are notorious for stripping your hair of colour and making them fade a lot faster than they usually would. Natural scalp oils can and will make your colour look good and SLS-free shampoos are what you need to extend the life of your gorgeous hair colour.
5. Cleaning up your hair care routine:
'Clean beauty' is all the rage right now and one of the biggest ways you can clean up your hair care routine is by going sulfate-free. These compounds are considered unsafe for the environment. They can disturb your scalp's natural microbiome and cause grief to sensitive scalps. SLS-free shampoos are also tear-free and suitable for all hair textures.
How to switch to a sulphate-free hair care routine?
If you have decided to make the switch to a sulphate-free routine, there are a few things you need to take note of. Here are a few ways to use go sulphate-free the right way:
1. Take your hair type into consideration before purchasing a sulphate-free shampoo. Oily hair types might need ingredients like green tea and vetiver to freshen up their scalp. Also, label check for plant-based cleansing ingredients that will clean your scalp effectively without drying it out.
2. Since sulphate-free shampoos do not lather up, you need to emulsify them as much as possible in your palms before applying them to your hair. Also, make sure your hair is completely wet in order to avoid rubbing your mane too much to get the product in. You will need a lot of water to spread out your shampoo evenly all over your scalp and hair.
3. You cannot rush sulphate-free shampoos to do their job properly. In order to make sure the botanical ingredients are cleaning your scalp, you need to massage it for at least three minutes before washing it off. Make sure to apply your shampoo only to your scalp, massage it on and let the soapy water wash the ends when you rinse it out. You do not need to massage the ends of your hair.
Are there any disadvantages of going sulphate-free?
There are no direct cons of going sulphate-free. The only struggles you will face while making the transition is to adapt the rinse and repeat every time you wash your hair. Your hair will also take some time to adjust to the new routine and needs more commitment to be followed through. Also, SLS-free shampoos may not be able to treat issues like dandruff, which is when you have to use medicated shampoos that do comprise sulphates.
FAQs about sulphate-free shampoo
Q. Why do sulphate-free shampoos feel ‘unclean’?
A. Since SLS-free shampoos do not lather up well, they can give you the impression of 'unclean' hair. But, in reality, your mane needs to be trained to do without this ingredient after being used to it for so many years. Once your scalp is adjusted to the change, it will start to feel normal again.
Q. Are sulphate-free shampoos easy to wash off?
A. Similar to the application, sulphate-free shampoos are also tricky to rinse off. This is because they are often formulated with botanical oils, which are not water-soluble in nature. Make sure you are thoroughly rinsing your hair, with plenty of water, to get all of the product before going in with the conditioner.